“Preventing Early Child Forced Marriage, Ethiopia” Photo by Christian Aid Ireland

Gender Based Violence, Poverty and Development

What is Gender Based Violence?

Gender based violence (GBV) is any act or threat of harm inflicted on a person because of their gender. It is experienced more by women and girls than by men and boys. GBV takes place in families, in communities, and in cultures. Research suggests that nearly one out of every three women globally has experienced psychological, physical or sexual partner violence during their lifetime. Although it is a universal issue, it is more common in less developed countries and those suffering civil conflict. An abuse of human rights, failure to address GBV amounts to complicity.

What has poverty got to do with GBV?

GBV has very close links to poverty. Recession and economic downturns can act as triggers for incidences of GBV. The impact of GBV on health and productivity can in turn lead to increased poverty. GBV behaviour can be ‘taught’ by one generation to the next, which in turn can make it more difficult to leave poverty behind. It is critical that any anti-poverty strategies include programmes for dealing with GBV.

What is the impact of GBV?

It impacts on households and communities. At household level, violence often results in direct costs to access health or legal services. And when money is spent in this way, there is less for food. Secondly, the health issues some women experience as a result of GBV can have a serious negative impact on their ability to work. This has a direct impact at the community level, where violence leads to lower productivity, absenteeism and often lower earnings by survivors of violence.

How does GBV feature in the Millennium Development Goals?

Together, eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) form a blueprint agreed to by all the world’s countries and leading development institutions, in order to meet the needs of the poorest and least developed countries.

  • Goal 1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger. Studies have shown that GBV can increase levels of hunger and child malnutrition. Violence impacts on family economics, and less money means less food and security.
  • Goal 2: Achieve universal access to education. Violence within the educational system is a daily reality for many women and girls. Whether in the home, school, or community, GBV limits access to, and participation in, education.
  • Goal 3: Promote gender equality and empower women. Gender inequality persists in most countries, and while violence against women goes unchecked and its long-terms consequences go unacknowledged, this Goal will never be reached.
  • Goal 4 & Goal 5: Reduce child mortality and improve maternal health. GBV has direct impacts on child mortality and maternal health. Partner violence during pregnancy results in increased infant and fetal death, low birth weight and under-five mortality. It also significantly impacts on maternal mortality.
  • Goal 6: Combat HIV and AIDS. GBV is widely acknowledged as a key risk factor for HIV and AIDS. Violence undermines the ability of women and girls to negotiate safe sex practices or to leave partners who engage in high-risk behaviour.
  • Goal 7: Ensure environmental sustainability. Women and girls play a significant role in agriculture in many developing countries, and are crucial to economic survival and success. GBV can and does, limit their participation.
  • Goal 8: Develop a global partnership for development. No global partnership can proceed without women’s voices and genuine participation. GBV excludes women and undermines the future of this development.

How should we respond to GBV?

A serious and complex international problem, it requires a range of responses:

  • International: Several United Nations Security Council Resolutions have made significant advancements towards dismantling the culture of tolerance and impunity associated with perpetrators of GBV.
  • National: A growing number of governments have passed legislation criminalizing GBV. Many have incorporated considerations of GBV in development plans.
  • Community: Local interventions are crucial. Awareness raising campaigns, provision of local services for survivors of violence, and a determination to shift gender norms all make a difference. Sample projects have shown that a multi-strand, holistic approach that engages with both men and women can produce more positive outcomes, which have a greater impact on the community.

Our policy recommendations

GBV needs to remain high on the political and development agenda at all times including during periods of economic hardship.

We call on our politicians to:

  • Continue to highlight GBV as a fundamental human rights violation and as a priority issue to promote sustainable development and reduce poverty.
  • Promote clear leadership and action within the international community.

We call on the broader development community to:

  • Make anti-GBV programmes a priority and fund them accordingly.
  • Commit resources to strengthening women’s economic and social power.
  • Approach services holistically, so sufferers’ composite needs are addressed.
  • Support effective responses to reduce and prevent violence and include men in the education and awareness raising programmes.

We call on our national governments and international donors to: